05/17/2011 2:38PM

Lone Star Park: Westrock picking its spots nationwide

Barbara D. Livingston
Tidal Pool, fourth in the Humana Distaff, is after a graded stakes victory.

Westrock Stables is expanding its reach. The Arkansas-based partnership – which races Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Hamazing Destiny and stakes-winning fillies Tidal Pool and Decelerator – has sent some 2-year-olds to Southern California and New York and recently won with its first-ever starters at Lone Star Park and Louisiana Downs.

“We’ve kind of started filtering the horses, to try and figure out what program they fit best in,” said Scott Ford, a prominent businessman and partner in Westrock with his father, Joe, and John McKay, who oversees the breeding and racing interests for the stable that was launched in 2008.

Westrock has about 40 horses in training, with the bulk of them in Kentucky under the care of D. Wayne Lukas. New to the operation this year are trainers Bob Baffert and Kiaran McLaughlin, who have each received four 2-year-old prospects from Westrock in an effort to separate some of the stable’s young horses, said Ford.

“We spread the 2-year-olds out geographically so they didn’t have to sit on top of each other,” he said.

Westrock has also kept some of its runners from the recent Oaklawn Park meet in the region, sending a few to trainers Tim Dixon and Clay Loetscher. Both men have training facilities in Arkansas, and will ship in to regional races that best suit the Westrock runners, said Ford. Westrock has also sent a few horses to Ron Moquett at Delaware Park.

Pollard’s Glance on May 5 was Westrock’s first runner at Lone Star. She won a $10,000 claiming turf route for fillies and mares for Loetscher. Sunday at Louisiana Downs, the Westrock-owned Distinct Danger was a five-length winner of a $12,500 maiden claiming sprint for Dixon. The win was meaningful for both Distinct Danger and Westrock.

“He was a horse that was about to go to Lukas, but he got hurt,” Ford said. “He ran through a fence. He couldn’t take training early [on]. We found Tim Dixon, who literally had a lake to swim them in. It started his path back to the track. It was the only thing [Distinct Danger] could do once the skin healed up. He started swimming last year. We just took our time with him.”

Westrock has a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Ford said on Monday that Decelarator, a Grade 3 winner with Lukas, is under consideration for a stakes on the Preakness undercard Saturday. Hamazing Destiny, also trained by Lukas, could make his return at Saratoga. And then there is Tidal Pool, the third-place finisher in last year’s Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan who Lukas recently sent out to a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff.

“She ran a good race,” Ford said. “We’ll probably keep her at seven furlongs and under for the time being. We’d love to see her get a graded stakes win. That’s the big goal for the summer.”

Also on the horizon are the debuts of the 2-year-old fillies Southern Drifter and Tiz the Tide. Ford said he is getting good reports on both runners. The Lukas-trained Southern Drifter is by Dixie Union and out of a full sister to Grade 2 winner Evansville Slew. Tiz the Tide, in Southern California with Baffert, is by Tiznow and from a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Colonel John.

Westrock, which in December began sponsoring the popular HRTV program “Westrock Coffee First Call,” has also begun dabbling in breeding. Be Fair, a Grade 3 winner for the stable and partners who was retired to Kentucky earlier this year, has been bred to Indian Charlie. Ford said Westrock has also bred a couple of mares to Soundman, their retired son of Songandaprayer. The resulting foals will be Arkansas-breds, said Ford.

◗ In the featured sixth race Thursday night at Lone Star, the red-hot Luis Quinonez will be aboard Kiss Me Chocolate for trainer Joe Petalino. She should start as one of the top choices in the $18,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs that has first-level allowance conditions. Kiss Me Chocolate was fourth at a similar level at Oaklawn in her last start April 7, and since then two runners from the race have won in their next starts, both at Delaware.